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Automated Distribution: Bringing Innovation to Pharma Fulfillment at Knipper

Hunter Senn and Tim Brown | 3 February 2021

Based in New Jersey, J. Knipper and Company is one of the nation's largest third-party logistics service providers (3PLs) for the pharmaceutical industry. They are a service partner providing management of product sampling for pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device professionals.

Now with access to 75% of the U.S. population with 2-day ground service, Knipper can deliver product to customers faster, thus increasing customer satisfaction, creating unique opportunities, and greater specialization in direct to physician fulfillment.

Most of their distribution facilities were on the east coast, but with year after year growth, Knipper expanded their distribution capacity westward.  The new facility located in Charlestown, Indiana, provides convenient access to major interstates and FedEx and UPS hubs. 

Always looking for innovation and a partner that they can evolve together with, Knipper connected with Bastian Solutions to design and integrate material handling technology for their newest facility. 

Increased Fulfillment Capabilities

Understanding Knipper’s unique fulfillment needs and growth trajectory was imperative to selecting an appropriate goods to person automation system that would support them as they continue to grow. Perfect Pick is a robotic picking technology engineered to simplify order fulfillment automation with increased throughput, reliability and cost effectiveness. Powered by a fleet of autonomous robotic delivery vehicles, iBOTS can access every storage location within the aisle and deliver inventory up to 80 pounds directly to a workstation located at one or both ends of the aisle.

“Perfect Pick was a great solution because of the number of SKUs that the program requires,” said Frank McNicholas, Knipper COO. Specifically, Knipper uses OPEX's Perfect Pick HD (high density) model, which offers twice the storage capacity of the "single" solution by doubling the modular racking on each side of the aisle, creating a two-deep storage solution on each side. The system can manage more than 50,000 SKUs and has storage capacity for 10,400 Perfect Pick storage totes.

Ensuring Reliable Accuracy

Perfect Pick added two invaluable attributes to Knipper’s system – efficiency in the ability to interweave tasks and accuracy in scanning lot numbers for put away, replenishment and more. To maximize this productivity and accuracy further, Bastian Solutions integrated light directed picking and putting systems. This was added to the operator’s workstations, connected directly to the Perfect Pick system.

In this visual system, a light illuminates the necessary pick location to indicate which product the operator needs to grab or place the product into. Pick and put to light is not only easy for operators to learn (30 to 45 minutes of training) but increases efficiency and is an affordable solution for many picking, putting, or sorting processes.

Total System Optimization


Considering the system as a whole, the Exacta warehouse execution software (WES) provides Knipper the ability to coordinate labor and equipment through dynamic optimization using real time inputs.

Knipper’s fulfillment process begins when orders are released from its host system into the WES. As orders are received, custom-sized shipping containers are erected, a license plate number is applied, and the containers are routed through the system. Exacta’s automated order routing provides intelligence and visibility for the tracking of order fulfillment containers on a conveyor belt network throughout the automation.

The Human Machine Interface (HMI) provides easy access to real-time information such as: system status, shipping and sortation statistics, and live video monitoring. Multiple 3D screens display a detailed view of how the system is operating. Color association for conveyor sections make the information easy to comprehend.

Maximizing Automation Benefits

Inventory management

Inside the Perfect Pick system, the WES manages the inventory allowing it to optimize the order fulfillment process and balance the flow of outbound containers. Additionally, the WES tracks “lots” throughout the Perfect Pick system, which allows the host system to specify a lot when sending the WES the outbound order that needs to be fulfilled.

Added Ergonomics

At the Perfect Pick workstations, operators can seamlessly interact with the system using a touch user interface. Product totes are delivered directly to the workstations, where picking is completed, and the system automation diverts the picked products to the next destination. Additionally, cartons and totes are moved throughout the system by conveyor through incline and declines, Perfect Pick workstation diverts, recirculation loop (if needed), and pack/shipping workstations for timely customer delivery. 

This makes for a physically lighter workload, increased comfort, and reduced unnecessary walking throughout the facility for employees.


Unmatched 3PL Fulfillment

With the right people, processes, and material handling solutions; J. Knipper and Company can now accommodate their customers better than ever before. Their Midwest location gives them increased access and the technology to meet their rapid 2-day delivery promise.

Working with delicate products to support the pharmaceutical industry Knipper and Bastian Solutions understood that accuracy was not only expected but crucial. “When we came to this area it was really important that we found a partner that was going to be able to grow with us,” said Gerri Treacy, SVP Operations for Knipper. Together, Bastian Solutions and Knipper leveraged automated distribution technologies to achieve unmatched pharmaceutical 3PL fulfillment.

Author: Hunter Senn, Tim Brown

Hunter is a logistics consultant for Bastian Solutions software division, based out of Louisville, Kentucky.  He works closely with the end customer to sell, design, and implement the best material handling solution possible. He has assisted customers across a number of vertical industries to ensure they get the most out of their Exacta software system. Prior to Bastian Solutions, Hunter acquired experience as a project manager with an industrial automation solution provider in the freight and parcel industry. Hunter graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Mechanical Engineering degree and received his MBA with an analytics focus from Bellarmine University.

Tim is a Bastian Solutions Senior Applications Engineer based out of Louisville, Kentucky. He has a Bachelor of Science and a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Louisville. Tim has been providing distribution design and integration leadership for numerous Bastian Solutions’ clients for over 30 years, helping clients develop strategic initiatives and lead successful system implementations.    


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